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Top 8: Biggest (Unintended) Surprises in Skyrim


The world of Skyrim is an amazing place. Not only is inhabited by every manner of strange creature, be they Atronach or Ice Troll, but also because no matter where you go in the game – it’s an experience. Much like Red Dead Redemption, it’s a world where just by running around you get caught up in all manner of things. Some bits might be as scripted as the carriage attacks in Red Dead, while others are a little more… unexpected. I’ve compiled some of my favourite surprises so far from Skyrim, basically a bunch of “WTF” moments, for you guys to enjoy.

8. The Sabre Cat

Now maybe to some of you this wasn’t too much of a surprise. After all, there are far deadlier things in the world of Skyrim than a common, run-of-the-mill sabre-tooth tiger. But for me, this was a surprise that almost resulted in a fresh pair of pants.

Let me set the scene. I had just finished riding my horse across the grasslands near Whiterun and up into some hills. I came to the top of a steep cliff, with my quest objective down below. I dismounted and tried to see if there was a way down. There wasn’t. So I turned around to get back on my horse and ride around – and that’s when it struck.

Just as I turned I caught sight of a pair of huge, dark eyes and a darting paw that seemed to make my lightning spells look sluggish. I immediately paused the game and saved it. Then died. A lot.

The timing of my save combined with my position on top of the cliff resulted in about 20 minutes of either me or my horse falling victim to this oversized kitty, until finally (after about 15 retries) I managed to emerge victorious. Somehow this, admittedly pretty large, cat managed to surprise me more than the last 3 dragons put together. So I warn you, beware the Sabre Cat – among the most cunning of Skyrim’s predators.

7. My Horse is a Serial-Killer

After a few hours in the game I finally stopped spending money levelling up my skills for long enough to buy a horse (instead of just repeatedly stealing them), and for awhile I was impressed with the serene grace of my new mount.

Until I got into combat.

Then my horse turned into some kind of blood-crazed demon-horse, intent on killing each and every thing in sight. Now I come from a long list of RPG’s where your horse is basically a prop, best case scenario if it gets threatened it runs away. Now to go from that to a game where if you get attacked by a 500kg Sabre Cat your horse will be the first one to run over and start flailing it's hooves at it – was a pretty big surprise.

Not to mention the first time I got jumped by bandits my horse killed 2/3 before I managed to pull my sword out. Now that’s a fearsome steed, even if he was a sort of mottled grey colour. I know that later in the game you can get a demon horse with red eyes, but to be honest – I think there is a serial-killer in all of them, no matter how innocent they look.

Now if only I wasn’t too scared to go to sleep around it my life would perfect…

6. Storm Call (Around 2:58)

Admittedly, this was a surprise I encountered before I bought Skyrim, in one of the early gameplay videos. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any less amazing in the final game. This wasn’t even a random event, in fact: is it really a surprise that a storm was called when I used the ability “Storm Call”?

Well, yes, it was.

Mainly because in games like World of Warcraft, an ability called Thunderstorm creates a 3 foot wide cloud that floats about 10 feet off the ground and sends down sporadic bolts of lightning every half a second. This was what I tend to expect from an RPG.

What I didn’t expect was for the entire zone to suddenly be plunged into a vicious rain storm, which not only caused lightning to strike down from the sky hundreds of feet above – but was strong enough to make dragons crash. These gods of the sky were literally forced to their feet (claws?) by the power wielded by my mortal fingers. It was the best kind of surprise you could hope for.

5. Dragons kill people

This sounds like a no brainer. Of course dragons kill people, they feed on people. That was basically the entire plot of the movie Reign of Fire. But I mean something slightly more specific. I was expecting dragons to kill me, multiple times. I even expected them to kill other people I was with, or maybe a mammoth or two.

I didn’t expect to see them bodily pick up giants and fling them across the world to their death, swooping down like death-on-wings and dealing destruction in an instant. But I was instantly captivated by it.

I honestly thing Besthesda could make a game where you just watch dragons soar down and decimate an army by dropping to their death from 80 feet in the air – I’d play it.

This was one of several details that really made me stop and go “holy shit, these people know dragons”. Especially compared with the static sort of movements you generally expect from an RPG, to see these creatures interact with the world on this kind of a level was a jaw-dropping experience.

Need proof? It happens at the start of the video above.

4. Gravity Defying Horse

I know, I know, I’m picking on the horses. But they act in some very… unexpected ways. Like their insane mountain goat ability to ride up the side of mountains.

This actually was a pretty amazing discovery for me, made all the more hilarious by how badly I failed when I tried to show it off. I was riding up the side of a mountain, trying to get to High Hrothgar when I thought that cutting off the path was a good idea.

Soon my screen basically looked like the shot above, with my horse keeping pace at an impossible angle. I was so excited I turned to my girlfriend (who was playing on her Iphone) and told her to come watch.

Then I immediately turned sharp right, which caused my horse to slip on the snow and both of us to shoot about 30 feet down the hill to our deaths. As a big lover of horses, she wasn’t impressed by my display of animal cruelty.

3. Skeleton Dragon

Ahh the skeleton dragon, so rare that it warranted an entire article all to itself yesterday.

This dragon comes in many forms apparently. As you can see in the video I posted up yesterday, it’s possible to find it flying around Skyrim and then battle it to it’s (second?) death. But there are other incarnations that the many glitches of Skyrim have played host to. I’ve heard of a player fighting a normal dragon that mysteriously turned into a skeleton dragon midway through the fight. And also became invincible.

Needless to say, his game file is still haunted by that undefeatable skeleton dragon.

My own contact with the skeleton dragon thus far is limited to something I saw on my girlfriends file last night. She was running towards Whiterun when a dragon skeleton crashed down out of the air in front her – despite there being no dragons in the vicinity. But that’s not all… on closer inspection, the dragon was named the same as the first dragon you defeat (the second one you encounter) so apparently it’s skeleton had woken up several hours later and flown itself from the neighbouring guard tower all the way to Whiterun.

Maybe it got lonely?

2. The Giant Bash

If you have tussled with a Giant then odds are this has happened to you at some point. But that doesn’t make it any less amazing.

I’m not sure if Giants simply have super strengthx10 or if Bethesda just wanted to input a way for you to view the continent from several hundred feet in the air – but either way, the result is your character flying up into the air like he was made of paper-mache .

Sure, it doesn’t make much sense, but that doesn’t make it any less hilarious. Personally I enjoy the look of regret that flashes across the Giant’s face right before he hits you, as if to say “ohh you pushed the wrong guy buddy”.

Or maybe I’m just imagining that.

1. The Bugs

And taking the top spot, so rightly deserved, are the many bugs of Skyrim. I’m not sure if the console versions suffer a lot more than PC, but for me hardly a day goes by that I’m not afflicted by some new hilarious form of bug.

I’ve ridden invisible horses, seen players with invisible faces, heard tales of a goat riding on a dragon and even watched that video above of a flying deer which kamikaze’s itself into the ground. If Skyrim was a ninja, it would be Naruto – because it’s the number one most unpredictable game. Still, the bugs are generally cosmetic and very rarely game breaking – which just makes them all the more funny when you run into them.

One of my favourites was hearing about my brother running into a dragon who seemed to be afraid of a certain hut. If you tried to approach the hut while the dragon was attacking you, instead of following, it would turn and soar into the sky – higher and higher, and higher… and higher… and…

Finally it would disappear, the last sight being a speck breaking through the atmosphere of earth.

Fly on, space dragon. Fly on.

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1 Comment

  1. Kitty

    I just thought I'd add a tale to your #1: Bugs: One day I approached a giants camp, but there were two giants but no mammoths. The giants were assaulting my beleaguered companion, sending poor Lydia sky-rocketing into the air. However I approached the camp with caution, wary of said missing mammoths, then a mammoth slammed into the ground not 10 feet away from me. I looked at it, then upward from whence it fell, only to see three more mammoths gliding across the sky then abruptly changing coarse and plummeting to the ground around me, dead upon impact. Needless to say, I looted their corpses and fled.

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